Today I’m chatting about cellular windows shades and sharing my experience ordering custom window shades vs cheap window shades bought off the shelf – because we recently bought both for the lakehouse!
After getting bigger roadside windows installed, every curtain and blind I had purchased or made needed to be replaced. To be honest, I’ve struggled with curtains. I preferred sheers in the townhouse but here in the lakehouse I’ve tried different combinations of blinds, shades, and fabric curtains (both prints and solids!). But I was never 100% satisfied (although the turquoise tweed DIY back tab curtains were definitely a favorite).
I almost decided to go with really cool silver (aluminum) blinds on all four windows, with sheers in the bedrooms for added softness. I wanted to install a pelmet in the two bedrooms and then hide a curtain track behind it, with dreamy wall to wall textured white sheers. It was my plan if the installers royally screwed up the popcorn ceiling during the window install, so the pelmet/sheers could hide any repairs. But when the windows were installed with the popcorn ceiling remained intact, I had the chance to start from scratch. But there was a catch.
Warning: Custom Window Sizes Might Require Custom Shades!
I had asked when I was choosing window sizes and designing my windows if there was anything I should think about when it comes to size. I was told: “nope”. But it turns out that most off-the-shelf blinds/shades only go to a certain size and my new bedroom window width was FOUR INCHES too large for this kind of inexpensive blind/shade. When I told the guy we had ordered the windows from, he said, “Oh yeah! Blinds and stuff. Oh, that must have really increased your cost”. Le sigh. So instead of spending roughly $100-4oo(ish) per shade, we forked out over thousands for four custom shades. In hindsight, would I give up the 4 inches per window to save so much money on shades??? Tough to answer that because some days I wish the windows were even BIGGER (I am an iguana, I like to bask in the sunlight), but then saving money is also awesome. We technically could have mixed custom/off the shelf shades for the roadside windows because two of the new windows (bathroom windows) were narrow enough. But after careful consideration, we opted for matching custom shades for all four roadside windows because it just looks so polished.
Why We Chose Cellular Shades (Plus Room Darkening vs Light Filtering Shade Explanation)
For the custom shades on the roadside windows, I visited a few shops in town but was most impressed with Budget Blinds (not sponsored). The owner worked tirelessly to make sure we were happy and although she presented many options and educated us so much, she was never pushy. Her staff was knowledgeable and so helpful, and the whole process was just really smooth. I had purchased my ceiling mounted shower curtain rod from there, so I was already a happy customer. After considering various options/combinations, we decided that we wanted cellular shades with two halves: a sheer top for privacy during the day and a room darkening or light filtering bottom for night. We opted for room darkening for the bedroom and office, so at night the motion lights don’t disrupt sleep – that was something hubby really wanted. But for the two other rooms on that side of the house (both bathrooms) light filtering was perfect because during the day, we could use either the sheers or the light filtering half for privacy without making the room completely dark. Below is a photo to demonstrate what I mean: on the top are the sheer shades and the bottom has been pulled up a bit to show you the room darkening portion. So these shades can be 100% sheer, 100% room darkening/light filtering, or any combination of the two. So when the sun shines into my office, I raise the room darkening portion a bit to stop glare on my monitor but keep the room nice and bright. I am OBSESSED with these shades and how well they function for our lives, offering privacy and diffusing/blocking light when we need it.
You can see that the office has darker shades on the bottom, but in the bathrooms that bottom portion is only light filtering so it’s a less opaque material. See how the light still shines through in the photo below?
Choosing the Color for Our Custom Shades
I first went to the store showroom and looked at samples (zeroing in on some aqua ones), but then the owner booked a time to bring my shortlist to the house. She actually made the hour drive out here, free of charge, for which I was so grateful! But when she came that first day, we couldn’t find the right fit. Again, the large window limited choices even with custom shades, so some shades hubby and I wanted weren’t available. Plus the aqua I had originally wanted was way too blue and competed with the art, but none of the whites were white enough, and the greys looked very commercial. I couldn’t decide on a color, so we re-grouped and she came back a few days later with more samples after getting to see our house and figure out our style. Among the new samples was a soft beach glass inspired hue – one of those, is it grey/blue/green?, kind of colors I love so much. Soft and seemingly pulled right from Hubby’s Grandpa’s artwork, this soft green (“slate” in the samples below) was the perfect color. Yay!
The top color in these samples is very grey but the color I chose is just a tiny bit more vibrant – it has only a hint of a hue and can still pass for a neutral.
The same sample deck had an aqua and indigo I liked too but, again, they were a bit too bold. (Can’t believe I turned down aqua…)
TIP: Getting an in-home consultation was key to finding the right color because it’s a lot like paint: things look so different in your own home, in your own lighting.
Our Custom Shades – Color, Style and Name:
For anyone curious about the color/style, I couldn’t find them online but my invoice says:
NOR – PureVu Honeycomb Shades – BB, Cordless Day and Night – Top 1 1/4 Single Sheer | Cloud White | Bottom 1 1/4 Semi-Opaque or Room Darkening | Slate
Things to Consider With Sheer Cellular Shades
The sheer portion allows so much light to flood the room but offers total privacy during the day, which our old curtains couldn’t do. This reminds me so much of our old sheer curtains, but with a cleaner and more modern look – and no curtain hem dragging in the dust! I chose a 1 1/4″ honeycomb, which also lends a more modern, simple aesthetic than a narrower honeycomb (which results in more pleats and can look busier and more traditional). One thing we thought about with sheer shades is the cord. There were pleated styles available (for less money) but you could see the cord weave in and out. Those were about $1000 less for four blinds but it was actually hubby who decided to spend more and get the honeycomb style which hides the cord inside:
Are the Custom Shades Worth it?
While Budget Blinds seems like a misnomer and these custom blinds were jaw-droppingly expensive (to me, anyway), I have to say I am very impressed with the quality! They have a great warranty, (fabric can be replaced, without question, within 5 years). Plus they glide well, feel firm when I pull them down, and have subtle clear tabs to move the shades with. It’s difficult to capture in photos, but they feel like good quality – really solidly built. They look great too – the fabric/material is perfect and has substance to it.
Ultimately though, we had to go with custom blinds for the window size, so it’s difficult to say whether it was worth it when I consider custom window shades vs cheap window shades. I like them better than our less expensive blinds, but do I like them that much better…?
Custom Window Shades vs Cheap Window Shades: Choosing Our Inexpensive Home Decorator’s Collection Cordless Cellular Shades
So let’s chat about the less expensive shades a bit. After using the custom shades for a few weeks, we were blown away by how much warmer the house was and how our heating costs were reduced. We knew curtains were insulative, but because they weren’t often closed, and we only had blinds on the two old windows (and one was a slatted style), we weren’t really experiencing the full heating benefits. With out new shades the results were dramatic so we decided we wanted some cellular shades on the lakeside windows too. We didn’t need room darkening or sheer combos like the custom shades – we just wanted some light filtering shades for nighttime, to help reduce heating costs and provide some much-needed (and long overdue) privacy at night when the lights are turned on inside the house.
At first, we loved these cheaper shades! When it came to weighing custom window shades vs cheap window shades were were Team Cheap. I can’t remember the exact price, but our width was less than $200 per shade. They cut them at the home improvement store, which was quick and easy (take three measurements, top, middle, and bottom, and choose the narrowest measurement for a good fit). They’re perfect for the living room and almost the exact shade of white as our walls. They offer privacy and warmth but if we do close them during the day (for a lazy Sunday movie), we can’t see out but the room is still bright. We were feeling pretty good because we saved a ton of money, although the fabric did have some flaws and the deck was thicker when closed – they are really good for the price. I actually decided to get them for the kitchen and fish room too but before I could make the trip into town, one of the blinds started to fail after only a few months of use. It no longer tucks up as tightly as the others when it’s open. It drops down an inch. Ugh. These are definitely not as solid quality as the custom blinds – which makes sense, these are much less money (less than $200/blind, although they’re only light filtering whereas the custom shades are sheer on top, so it’s like two shades in one – I’m comparing apples to candy apples here). However, I did call the big box home improvement store where we purchased them and, apparently I can exchange them with the receipt – I just need to find it, and get that done. I’m happy they can be replaced but it’s an annoying hassle – hopefully that one defective shade was an anomaly.
These cellular shades look great when tucked up out of the way. We always worried blinds or shades would ruin the wall of windows but they look nice – barely noticeable.
Custom Window Shades vs Cheap Window Shades – Mind the Shade Deck Width:
When comparing custom vs inexpensive shades, in addition to thinking of the quality of the hardware and fabric, one thing to think about is the increased size in the deck (the fabric when it’s folded up). With double shades like our custom ones, there’s always a deck somewhere: when the sheer portion is in use, there’s a deck on the bottom. Or there’s a thick deck on top if the shades are all up.
With custom shades though, the deck is narrower so when the shades are completely open, they aren’t so thick and bulky – which is really important with what is a essentially a double shade like this. The less expensive blinds are almost as thick but only have one shade – compare just the white folded fabric in the photo below (that’s a custom deck with double blinds vs a single deck of inexpensive blinds). Less expensive blinds typically have a thicker deck – just something to consider if that’s important to you.
Custom Window Shades vs. Cheap Window Shades – Which is Better?:
As with so many things, you get what you pay for! I love the idea of cheap shades for the lakeside windows because we just can’t afford any more custom. I think one day, far in the future, when the kitchen has been renovated and the car has been paid off and maybe a small lottery prize has been won, I’d like to spring for matching custom shades on those windows too. For now, the cheap ones saved our budget (although they still did add up!). I think they’re a great buy and look really fresh and modern. There are tiny flaws here and there in the fabric and the deck is thicker. Overall, they look and feel like a cheaper quality up close – but you have to really look. And normally when they’re down, it’s dark anyway – lol. They’re awesome for the price!
But I have no regrets about springing for the custom shades. They were a perfect complement to the new windows – and a necessity given the extra-large size I designed – and the sheers/room darkening & light filtering combo is perfect. We are always using them, and I love the sheer portion down during the days because that side faces the road so I get so much privacy but beautiful light. Plus working with an expert helped us learn so much about blinds/shades and without her I don’t know how we would have figured it all out. To be honest, I probably would have gone with cheap blinds and sheers and continued to fuss with curtains. Getting professional advice was the invaluable part of going custom.
Hopefully chronicling this process was helpful and you learned a little. The world of window shades was so overwhelming to me!